The death of a cat is never easy, but knowing the signs that the end is near can help you make her comfortable. You won't always be able to heal her, but you can identify what she's going through and see her to as painless an end as possible.
Signs of Deterioration
As a cat dies, even of old age rather than sickness, her body is going to start shutting down. She may show some of the same signs of weakness as a sick cat, like not making it to the litter box, resisting play time or not eating. Her senses won't seem as sharp as they once were, and she may not be able to see or hear you very easily. Her sense of touch is the only one that doesn't deteriorate, so she'll never stop feeling your soothing pets, not even at the end.
Even a cat that is typically glued to your lap may seek out solitude when she senses death approaching. Don't take it personally -- it's an act of instinct. In the wild, a dying cat would seclude herself because she would know that she is vulnerable to predators. This can also be a result of stress, as the deterioration of her senses and her overall sense of physical weakness may make her want to avoid any type of stimulation or excitement.
Taking It Easy
Dying cats often become markedly lethargic, both because they are physically weakened and because they simply don't feel the urge to play and exercise. Simply getting around the house can become a chore for a dying cat, so don't be surprised if all she wants to do is lay around. In severe cases, she may be weakened to the point that she has difficulty getting up, walking or climbing into her litter box.
While some cats may choose isolation in their final days, some may take this time to be as close to their loved ones as possible. They may return to a favorite bed, blanket or pillow to make themselves comfortable, and they may follow their owners incessantly because they don't want to be alone. While dying cats may show their contentment through purring, they may also purr as a coping mechanism -- purring has been shown to strengthen the cat's muscles, and may even release endorphins that help her deal with whatever pain she's going through.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.